Ideas are a dime a dozen. Solutions, on the other hand, are the true catalyst for results, especially in the business world. Within organizations, spontaneous gatherings such as impromptu meetings, open chat rooms, and watercooler conversations can fuel brilliant ideas. Coincidental observations and overheard discussions may also trigger innovative suggestions.
What’s most important, though, is taking these thoughts and packaging them into actionable solutions. By presenting ideas alongside data, research, and even a preliminary game plan, employees can easily find themselves working alongside decision makers to start making a larger impact on the organization.
In this article, we’ll outline several steps you can take in order to effectively present a solution to a problem. In doing so, you’ll position yourself as an agent of change within the company as well.
Instead of embarking on a solo crusade for change, talk with your peers about any observed problems. They may help validate your hypotheses and can provide additional insights, different perspectives, or alternative approaches.
This third-party perspective can debunk misconceptions or myths that might lead to a revamp of your ideas. Consider this an opportunity to “soft pitch” your thoughts in a safe environment long before you present them to management. Use your peers to poke holes in your proposals and suggest fixes.
The right idea, as a concept, may make sense, but numbers create a clear case that can measure the potential value of any new proposed solutions. When you conduct internal research, you should try to identify the root cause of the issue. Why is it happening?
Then trawl through company databases, analytics platforms, CRM tools, and other software to extract data points that can support your theory. Use the potential reach and impact of your ideas as key selling points. Perhaps your proposal can accomplish the following:
Save the company money
Reduce inefficiencies and increase productivity among employees
Significantly benefit a large percentage of your customer base
When you can quantify the value of implementing a certain idea or solution, it’s easier to spark interest among decision makers and gather support to carry you through the evaluation process with company management.
Good solutions evolve over time, and may ultimately be the amalgamation of a variety of different ideas. To set yourself up for success, think about several viable solutions — and then pick them apart. Figure out what could work and critically explore the pros and cons of each approach. This way, you can correct any flaws and preemptively answer any “what if” scenarios.
In fact, when you present your recommended solutions to management, leave time to summarize the alternative scenarios you envisioned. By proactively addressing arguments against your solutions, you show the comprehensive approach you took before you even submitted your proposal.
Of course, before you can make it into the meeting room, you have to request an audience. First, determine who’s in the chain of command. Identify the right decision maker within your company and figure out which adjacent employees can help you in ultimately reaching the right authority figure. This could be your direct supervisor, who reports to a regional manager, who then can get you a meeting with the department director.
Liaising with different parties at each stage of the corporate ladder allows you to recruit allies and even champions for your ideas.
When you formally submit your request for a meeting, include the following information:
A concise summary of the problem
Data that shows the consequences the company experiences because of this problem
Numbers that quantify the potential impact of your solution
A short teaser of your solution
Suggested time slots and the duration of time needed for the meeting
Once the meeting is scheduled, you have to invest time in preparing your presentation. While there are several strategies you can employ to engage and persuade your audience, it’s crucial that you at least expand upon the foundation of your meeting request.
Problem: How did you discover this problem? Explain how knowledge of the issue arose and who it impacts.
Consequences: Use this meeting as your chance to convince decision makers that the problem needs to be addressed. Explain the data you shared in the meeting invitation and deepen your case for change.
Solution: Share as much as you can about your proposed solution. Use data, preemptively explain critiques of the solution, and propose next steps.
Some ideas need time to process, and it’s important to remember that although management may like your proposal, they are often juggling several priorities at once. Give them a few days, or even a week, to digest the presentation details before following up to ask for any thoughts or feedback.
At the follow-up stage, add further value to the conversation. Provide additional or new statistics and other key findings you may have left out or not had during your presentation. Share more detail to answer any questions they asked previously. Use the follow up as an opportunity to further convince them to accept your proposal.
Of course, if it happens, remember to take rejection gracefully. An initial rejection may be the right move for the company, as there could be more room for improvement. You can respectfully ask questions about what’s missing or what the potential issues or resource limitations are. Armed with additional information, you can then refine or revamp your proposal to account for management’s reservations and perspective.
While it may require a few meetings at the roundtable, once you’ve generated management support for your ideas, then you either need to lead the charge with implementing the solution or coordinate with the assigned project manager to see it through to completion.
Many times, good ideas get tangled up and forgotten about at the execution stage. To ensure all your hard work manifests into change, carve out the time and resources to work on the initiative. Management will notice your dedication to full-cycle problem solving and may be more willing to lend their ear when you come up with other ideas.
Measure the impact of your solution after a few weeks or months, too. You can carry these quantified wins as trophies into future meetings, ensuring you’ll always have a voice that can create meaningful organizational change.
As an employee, you’re more likely to see challenges and opportunities that might not be so obvious to upper management. Absent research or an action plan, busy supervisors and senior staff may be quick to dismiss any suggestions for change.
When you battle test your ideas with peers first, conduct research, and explore different solutions and outcomes, you’re better prepared to ask for a meeting, wherein you’ll be able to overcome any initial doubt and skepticism. Plus, when you present the right details alongside a proposed strategy for implementation, you’re more likely to sway decision makers in your favour and, ultimately, impact change.